Daily Archives: April 4, 2014

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Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

April 4, 2014

In this issue:

• Senate adjourns this week

• School finance

• Community forum

• Kansas Health Institute

• Health information

Senate adjourns this week  

Legislators worked long days this week finishing legislative business before the session break.

The session is scheduled to end April 4.

After this date, bills that haven’t passed both chambers can no longer be debated although certain bills are exempt from this deadline.

Following a short break, legislators will return for the veto session in late April. At that time, exempt bills, conference reports, and any vetoes by the governor will be considered.

If you have any questions about any of the legislation being considered, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.

School finance  

The Senate will likely not finish today, but will convene again on Saturday, April 5, to work school funding legislation in response to the Gannon decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

I have voted “no” on this legislation, and join with Sen. Anthony Hensley in his explanation of that “no” vote, offered on the Senate floor:

“Madam President:

“I vote no on HB 2506.

“Less than one month ago the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that the legislature has created an unconstitutional school finance system and then was the time to fix it. They told us to resolve inequities by fully funding capital outlay and local option budget equalization.

“Unfortunately, we have waited until the final two days of the legislative session to address this issue. When the equity issue should have been this legislature’s first and foremost priority.

“It is absurd that we are discussing more cuts to important areas of education – at-risk, virtual schools, transportation – to fix this. More cuts are not the solution.

“This bill makes unnecessary and unvetted new education policy such as blocking the implementation of the Common Core standards, creating a corporate tax scholarship credit, eliminating due process for teachers, and establishing a property tax credit without a fiscal note for families using private schools.

“The school finance formula is not broken and should not be changed. The formula is underfunded. And, if we really want to put money into the classroom, we should be restoring the cuts and raising the base state aid per pupil.”

– Anthony Hensley

This session on the Senate floor continued until 1:45 a.m. Friday morning. We debated the education funding bill for 6 hours.

Update from the House (from the Topeka Capital-Journal):

Both Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, urged the House to pass a compromise school finance bill Friday, in a bipartisan effort.

“While I was hoping to vote for a little bit better product, this does address the most important issue court set before us, which is that we need to fund the equalization pats of the (K-12 funding) formula,” Davis said about Senate Bill 218. To read this story, visit http://m.cjonline.com/news/2014-04-04/house-oks-bipartisan-school-finance-bill.

Community forum  

Members of the Wyandotte County legislative delegation will participate in a Town Hall Forum sponsored by the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce. The forum will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. April 12, at the West Wyandotte Public Library, 1737 N 82nd St., Kansas City, Kan. All are welcome to attend, and I hope to see you there. I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you and answer any questions you may have about this legislative session.

Kansas Health Institute  

According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Kansas, starting with the most healthy, are Johnson, followed by Riley, Pottawatomie, Waubaunsee and Stevens. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with the least healthy, are Woodson, Elk, Wyandotte, Chautaqua, and Decatur.

The Rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. In Kansas, this year’s Rankings show that within communities that rank lowest, babies are 50 percent more likely to have low birth weight and children are more than four times more likely to live in poverty than in communities that rank at the top.

Health information

From the American Heart Association:

“Children consume 45 percent more snack food when exposed to food advertising. 34 percent of food products in ads targeting children and teens are candy and snacks.”

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Karen Hernandez, Melanie Scott and Curtis Smith are among the committee members for the 9th annual Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival: “A Human Family Reunion,” which is April 12 on the KCKCC campus. Hernandez and Scott, co-founders of the festival, will also be recognized with the Legends of Diversity Award. (Photo from KCKCC)

by Kelly Rogge

Music, dancing and ethnic foods will fill the Kansas City Kansas Community College Field House as part of the 9th annual Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival: A Human Family Reunion.

“This is a great way for people in our community to experience how diverse food, music, art and dance generates a healthy, optimistic sense of shared well-being,” said Curtis V. Smith, a biology professor at KCKCC and one of the festival’s organizers. “This serves an academic purpose, but it also serves as a way to bring the community together.”

The Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 12 in the KCKCC Field House, 7250 State Ave. Admission and parking are free. Ethnic food will also be available for purchase.

The festival was introduced as a way to celebrate Wyandotte County’s greatest asset – its diversity.

Karen Hernandez, co-founder of the festival and a former member of the KCKCC Board of Trustees, said that it is grounded in Martin Luther King’s vision of what being part of a “Beloved Community” meant, equal opportunity and justice built on a solid foundation of agape or brotherly love.

“The Human Family Reunion is designed to foster a climate of inclusiveness, promote better human relations and educate each other about our cultural differences,” she said. “People want to come out to try the food from different countries, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate our common humanity.”

More than 50 organizations, countries and ethnicities from Wyandotte County will be represented at the festival through booths as well as onstage entertainment.

Clarence Small will once again serve as master of ceremonies, and Shawn Derritt, director of advising at KCKCC and gospel singer, will kick-off the event with the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”

Another annual tradition is the awarding of the Legends of Diversity Award. It will be presented at 12:15 p.m. to the two co-founders of the festival, Hernandez and Melanie Scott, professor in the social and behavioral sciences department and former director of the Intercultural Center at KCKCC.

Among the criteria to be selected for the award are participation in organizing, planning or representing a country or ethnic group at the ethnic festival or culturally-related event in the Kansas City area; has made an effort to work together with a variety of people on issues benefiting the community; engineering the idea of peace and the spirit of cooperation in the community and world and reflecting with actions the ideal of building community.

Past honorees of the Legends of Diversity Award include Loren Taylor, Pat Adams, Ed Grisnik, Chester Owens, Helen Walsh Folsom and Carol Levers.

Everyone attending the festival will receive a souvenir program with blank “passport” pages. These can be stamped at the various booths. There will then be a door prize drawing at the end of the program from all of the completed stamped passport pages that have been turned in at the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibit.

In addition, Hernandez will be giving out one free book to each person who turns in a ticket received at the festival entrance, while supplies last.

Among the entertainment groups are The Gumbas, an Italian folk music group, who will perform at 12:30 p.m. and Danny Hinds, a Caribbean drumming and dance group. Danny Hinds will perform at 3 p.m.

In addition, the Hrvatski Obicaj Croatian Orchestra is returning as well as the Ed Grisnik Orchestra, featuring John Soptick.

Other performers include Roger Suggs, the St. Monica Inspirational Choir and the West of Marakesh Dancers.

The Creative Children’s Corner, coordinated by KCKCC’s Barbara Clark-Evans, will be located on the inside right of the Field House.

The food court area will include ethnic foods from West Africa and Kenya as well as “Soul Food,” prepared by the Renewed Hope Christian Church.

Students from KCKCC-TEC’s Culinary Arts Program will also be preparing Italian, Greek and Brazilian dishes. Water and mint tea will be available for free.

A spokesman said the Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival is thankful to its sponsors, the Unified Government Human Relations Commission; Brian Bode, vice-president of administrative services at KCKCC and the staff of Buildings and Grounds.

“Karen and I were just the visionaries,” Scott said. “He (Curtis Smith) was the one who took on the project and kept with it, transforming it into something fantastic. It gets the stakeholders to visit campus and becomes such a gathering for the community.”

For more information on the ethnic festival, visit www.freewebs.com/wycoethnicfestival/.

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

Window on the West

Opinion column

by Mary Rupert

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-3rd Dist., reported $2 million cash on hand to spend on his campaign at the end of 2013, according to campaign finance reports.

One of his Democratic challengers is Kelly Kultala of the Piper area of Kansas City, Kan., and I did not see any campaign finance reports for her on file yet at the federal level. But her fundraising has begun, and Kultala’s campaign treasurer, former Mayor Carol Marinovich, has been sending out fundraising emails.

One fundraising email, sent in late March to potential contributors who are women, was titled “Beyond the Boys’ Club,” and appeals to women, saying Kultala will focus on the “fight for equality and issues important to Kansas women and families.”

Kultala’s campaign manager, Jacob Becklund, began working a few weeks ago, having formerly worked for campaigns in Virginia and Colorado. He said he expected to see a lot of women supporting Kultala in this campaign.

So far Kultala is the only female in the campaign for 3rd District. Kultala will face Democrat Reggie Marselus of Johnson County in the primary.

One of the unexpected results of the Kultala fundraising email is that Unified Government Commissioner Ann Murguia has been getting a lot of emails forwarded to her from her acquaintances asking questions such as, “Can this be done?” That’s because the fundraising email is signed “Carol Marinovich, Mayor/CEO of the Unified Government,” not using the word “former” Mayor Marinovich.

Becklund said the title may have been an oversight on their part, and he added that many people keep their titles when they leave office.

That’s generally correct as many news stories often refer simply to “President Carter,” for example, instead of “former President Carter,” assuming that everyone knows he is a former president.

Titles, though, have been a big issue this year at the Unified Government, where a commissioner allegedly was using his title while conducting personal business, which is not allowed by the UG’s Code of Ethics. After glancing at the Code of Ethics, I saw this rule clearly does not apply to people who are no longer in office, so it would have no effect in this instance.

There’s no question that nearly all regular voters should know that Marinovich hasn’t been mayor since 2005, when Joe Reardon was elected, and that the current mayor is Mark Holland, who became mayor in 2013.  Those who don’t know who the mayor is probably will not be voting, anyway.

Marinovich was the first woman elected mayor of Kansas City, Kan.-Wyandotte County, and Kultala will be trying to be elected the second woman serving in the U.S. House from the 3rd District in Kansas. Jan Meyers was the first.

It will be hard to tell what Kultala’s biggest obstacle will be – whether it is that she is a woman running for office, whether it is that she is a Democrat in a district where there are a lot more Republicans, or whether it is that she is from Wyandotte County when most of the district’s voters are in Johnson County. But it now appears she has some skilled persons working in her campaign that will give her a fighting chance.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

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